While Muslims in Britain continue to observe some of the globe’s longest fasting hours this Ramadan, the Ministry of Defence has released its updated guidance for Ramadan 2016. With about 650 Muslims serving in the UK Armed Forces, the military and AFMA have worked to ensure that the religious and personal needs of its staff are being met.
Commanders and catering managers have access to a daily timetable for fasting and prayer periods. Here are some of the other arrangements in place during the holy month:
Whilst every effort is made to facilitate fasting during Ramadan, there are some circumstances where this may not be possible. Outside of the armed forces, exemptions can apply e.g those too ill to fast. Within the armed forces, the following circumstances qualify as a temporary exemption from fasting:
Muslim recruits undergoing initial training which requires arduous physical activity do not have to fast every day, but must make up missed days before the next Ramadan.
Fasting during operations and deployments may be possible, but operational and security needs must take priority.
Further religious guidance on these exemptions and making up missed fasts can be sought from the Muslim Chaplain.
Although meal timings remain as standard during Ramadan, provision is in place for Muslim personnel who are fasting to be catered for by means of an early breakfast as well as a late dinner in accordance with official policy. In addition, those who are observing Ramadan are able to supplement their meals with items such as dates.
Muslim personnel may request to work flexibly during Ramadan, starting early, working through lunch breaks and finishing early, in order to enable them to prepare for the iftar meal followed by the sunset prayer. Any request may be granted depending on what tasks the Unit is involved in. For example, this may not be appropriate or possible whilst personnel are deployed on operations however any request made whilst on routine duty in barracks would be considered.
Requests for time off are considered objectively and sympathetically, where it is reasonable and practical for a service person to be away from work and where they have sufficient annual leave entitlement. COs and line managers are encouraged to make every effort to allow individuals time off to celebrate religious festivals or holidays, such as Eid.
The Armed Forces ensures that extensive allowances are made for service personnel to socialise. This can include anything from a Unit BBQ to a large formal dinner. It is understood that it would not be appropriate for those fasting to attend these functions therefore exceptions can be made for those who may not wish to attend. As Ramadan only covers 30 days in any one year, personnel always have the opportunity to attend important Unit functions throughout the rest of the year.
For serving personnel and their Chain of Command, further guidance for Ramadan 2016 is available in the form of an internal policy document, DIN reference 2016DIN01-085 which is available via DII.
The Armed Forces Muslim Association (AFMA), was set up in recognition of the contribution Muslim personnel make across all three services, both in the Regular and Reserve forces.
From the earliest days of basic training, through to deployment and military operations, AFMA is on the ground helping support these dedicated Muslim men and women perform their military duties in full without compromising their faith.
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